Big Ten Power Rankings (Jan. 19): Hawkeyes Storm Their Way to the Top

Iowa is on a five-game winning streak and is scoring in all sorts of ways, once again proving it is the best team in the Big Ten – for now.
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When Luka Garza decided to come back to Iowa for another year, Hawkeyes fans immediately started thinking Final Four, something they haven't been able to enjoy since the Ronnie Lester days in 1980.

That Final Four was in Indianapolis, and this year the entire NCAA Tournament is coming to Indiana, and the Hawkeyes are starting to look like they plan on sticking around a while. 

The Hawkeyes have won five in a row now since that early Big Ten loss in The Barn at Minnesota, and they've done it in style, winning four of those five by 15 points or more. That makes it easy for me to move them to the top of our Big Ten Power Rankings.

So our second power rankings of 2021 will surely stir debate. It's not easy, and it's going to be fluid every week or two, as well.

Here's my rankings, from No. 1 to No. 14. I had to make some tough choices. Your thoughts?

1. Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Record so far: 12-2 overall, 6-1 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: AP No. 4, Coaches No. 4, kenpom.com No. 3
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 2
  • Last week: Michigan State (ppd.); Beat Northwestern 96-73
  • This week: Versus Indiana (Thursday, 9 p.m. ET): Nebraska (ppd.)
  • The skinny: This winning streak has been impressive, for two reasons. One, Garza has been dominant, as expected, but the Hawkeyes are also averaging 10 made three-pointers a game during the stretch. They beat you in many ways. 

2. Michigan Wolverines

  • Record so far: 11-1 overall, 6-1 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: AP No. 7, Coaches No. 7, kenpom.com No. 5
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 5
  • Last week: Beat Wisconsin 77-54: Lost to Minnesota 75-57
  • This week: Versus Maryland (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET); At Purdue (Friday, 7 p.m.)
  • The skinny: I've finally bought in on how good this Michigan is, and was all set to put them at No. 1 until the Wolverines finally came back to earth at Minnesota. They're legitimately good and can beat you in many ways, much like Iowa can. I think there's a clear delineation between Nos. 1-2 and the rest of the league right now. And since you're wondering. Iowa plays at Michigan on March 4.

3. Wisconsin Badgers

  • Record so far: 11-3 overall, 5-2 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: AP No. 10, Coaches No. 10, kenpom.com No. 11
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 1
  • Last week: Lost to Michigan 77-54; Beat Rutgers 60-54
  • This week: Versus Northwestern (Wednesday, 9 p.m.); Versus Ohio State (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)
  • The skinny: Wisconsin was No. 1 on our first poll right after the new year, but the Badgers have stumbled a bit. They've had Big Ten losses to Maryland and Michigan, and were fortunate to get past Indiana in double overtime. The bloom is off the rose for the moment with me, so let's see if they can get back on a run. 

4. Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Record so far: 11-4 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: AP No. 17, Coaches No. 17, kenpom.com No. 23
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 8
  • Last week: Beat Michigan 75-57; 
  • This week: Nebraska (ppd.); Versus Maryland (Saturday, 2 p.m.)
  • The skinny: The Gophers might be too high, but I'm giving them props for beating BOTH Iowa and Michigan in The Barn. This team is still a little too inconsistent for my liking, but they can be crazy explosive at times. Marcus Carr is having a great season.

5. Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Record so far: 9-5 overall, 5-3 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: AP No. 22, Coaches No. 24, kenpom.com No. 10
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 3
  • Last week: Nebraska (ppd.), Lost to Ohio State 87-81
  • This week: Versus Penn State (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. ET); Michigan State (ppd.)
  • The skinny: The Illini have been something of a disappointment so far this season, because I saw them as a possible Final Four teams. There's been too many games where they've simply looked average. I'm still counting on future projections, I suppose, in having them ranked ahead of Ohio State. 

6. Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Record so far: 11-3 overall, 5-3 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: AP No. 15, Coaches No. 18, kenpom.com No. 16
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 10
  • Last week: Beat Northwestern 81-71; Beat Illinois 87-81
  • This week: Versus Purdue (Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. ET); At Wisconsin (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)
  • The skinny:  Ohio State has been a slow buy for me, but the Buckeyes are coming on. They've won three in a row now, and I was duly impressed with the win at Illinois. If there's a team I missed on the most in the preseason poll, it just might be the Buckeyes. Win twice this week and I will be duly impressed.

7. Purdue Boilermakers

  • Record so far: 10-5 overall, 5-3 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: kenpom.com No. 26
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 9
  • Last week: Beat Indiana 81-69; Beat Penn State 80-72
  • This week: At Ohio State (Tuesday 6:30 p.m. ET); Versus Michigan (Friday, 7 pm.)
  • The skinny: Purdue has to do a better job of closing out games lately and now have won three in a row. Trevion Williams has been great inside, and it was impressive to see them toe the free throw line and knock down 11-of-12 down the stretch against Penn State. This is a tough week, so let's see if the Boilers can keep it going.

8. Northwestern Wildcats

  • Record so far: 6-6 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: kenpom.com No. 67
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 4
  • Last week: Lost to Ohio State 81-71; Lost to Iowa 96-73
  • This week: At Wisconsin (Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET); At Penn State (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET) 
  • The skinny: Northwestern has lost five in a row since our last ranking, and the freefall could have been even further. The Wildcats are really struggling to guard people lately, and they need to find a way to stop the bleeding.

9. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Record so far: 7-5 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: kenpom.com No. 40
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 6
  • Last week: Penn State (ppd.); Lost to Wisconsin 60-54
  • This week: At Penn State (Thursday, 7 p.m.); At Indiana (Sunday, Noon ET)
  • The skinny: Rutgers has five Big Ten losses already, which really surprises me, and now they've got two road challenges against teams ranked below them this week, so it's time to step up on the road and show us something.

10. Indiana Hoosiers

  • Record so far: 8-6 overall, 3-4 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: kenpom.com No. 32
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 11
  • Last week: Lost to Purdue 81-69; Michigan State (ppd.)
  • This week: At Iowa (Thursday, 9 p.m. ET); Versus Rutgers (Sunday, Noon ET)
  • The skinny: Indiana has now lost twice at home this season has favorites (Northwestern, Purdue) and finding wins on this schedule will not be easy. They go to Iowa on Thursday, and that's a hard one to figure. Iowa is on fire, but the Hoosiers did beat them easily a year ago. Huge week for Archie Miller, who needs to turn down the heat in the Indiana fan base right now.

11. Michigan State Spartans

  • Record so far: 8-4 overall, 2-4 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: kenpom.com No. 41
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 7
  • Last week: Iowa (ppd.); Indiana (ppd.)
  • This week: Illinois (ppd.)
  • The skinny: The Spartans started slow and now they've been shut down by a rash of postive COVID-19 tests inside the program. It seems like this is more of an incomplete than a poor grade. We have no idea when the Spartans are going to get back on the floor.

12. Maryland Terrapins

  • Record so far: 8-6 overall, 2-5 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: kenpom.com No. 45
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 12
  • Last week: Defeated Wingate 100-58; Nebraska (ppd.)
  • This week: At Michigan (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET); at Minnesota (Saturday, 2 p.m.) 
  • The skinny: The Terrapins have turned heads on occasion, but this is a tough week with two difficult road trips. Do they have some magic up their sleeves?

13. Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Record so far: 3-5 overall, 0-4 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: kenpom.com No. 47
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 13
  • Last week: Rutgers (ppd.); Lost to Purdue 80-72
  • This week: At Illinois (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. ET); Versus Rutgers (Thursday, 7 p.m.); Versus Northwestern (Saturday, 7 p.m.)
  • The skinny: Penn State went 17 days without playing, and now trying to make up games will be a real challenge. The Nittany Lions are playing four games in seven days, which never really happens in the Big Ten.

14. Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Record so far: 4-8 overall, 0-5 in the Big Ten
  • Current national ranking: kenpom.com No. 126
  • Previous Big Ten power rank: No. 14
  • Last week: Illinois (ppd.); Maryland (ppd.)
  • This week: Minnesota (ppd.); Iowa (ppd.)
  • The skinny: Fred Hoiberg has tested positive for COVID, as have several players, and they haven't played since losing to Indiana on Jan. 10. Not sure when they'll re-start, if they do at all.